UPDATE 12/12/2010: Check out CNET’s article on how Anonymous Anonymous really is, which mentions the one arrest so far in the case.
Somewhat embarrassingly, I blogged on Thursday (December 9) that “Anonymous” had threatened the EFF, then had it pointed out to me that Anonymous is not a single group or a monolithic entity like, say, PostFinance, PayPal or the British government. The “Anon_Operations” Twitter account that rendered the now oft-reported, oft-re-reported, and oft-re-re-re-reported threat has, since that threat, only re-tweeted Wikileaks tweets.
There’s no indication that the Anon_Operations account has anything at all to do with any of the hackers who launched Operation Payback, which according to Wikipedia may have began in retribution for Bollywood studio torrent trackers back in September. (Confused yet? I apparently am.) There’s also not one “atom” of evidence that the account is associated with those who launched Operation Avenge Assange, attacked PostFinance, PayPal, or anyone else, reportedly on Julian Assange’s behalf.
My assumptions that “Anonymous” was anything like a “group” was complete boneheadednesss. I’m now told it’s an “internet gathering,” though whether any the “individual” telling me that is even remotely associated with Operations Payback or Avenge Assange, I haven’t the faintest whisper of a hint of a sniff of a distant memory of a clue.
My outrage about the threat delivered Thursday can remain intact — but it should have been directed solely at that individual who made it, who might not even be a hacker, could have been joking, and/or could be the badest-assest hacker around, and still be an asshole, and still have been joking.
The criticisms I made should have been pointed at that single person. That was major idiocy on my part; mea culpa.
The good news is that I’m in good company! At least, according to a press release from Anonymous itself — ha ha ha ha! See what I did there? That’s a little joke. A “press” “release” from a “group” that “isn’t” “a” “group.” Ha ha ha ha! How is that possible? Same way a non-group can have a “manifesto,” but that’s what it’s being reported “Anonymous” released on Thursday. I’m sure this all makes sense to people far more 133t than m3, but 1’m just a c4v3m4n, and your bright lights and talk-boxes frighten me.
Since this is all about the Wiki, let’s start with a visit to the Wikipedia page on Anonymous, which directs me to the “press release” supposedly issued by Anonymous. The exact Wikipedia line at the moment I type this is: “Anonymous issued a press release in an attempt to clarify the issue,” a statement referenced to an un-bylined article on UK technology blog thinq.co.uk. The article says, in part:
As the war of WikiLeaks gains a second front in cyberspace, governments, media outlets and businesses around the world are struggling to understand just who or what their adversary, Anonymous, is – and what it hopes to achieve.
And obligingly, today, the self-styled “Internet gathering” of individuals bent on defending their vision of free speech online, issued a press release in an attempt to clarify the issue – though it raises as many questions as it answers.
Later in the article, it refers to the apparent infighting within the…um…I’m gonna try not to call it a “group,” but, well, y’know, the infighting between individual entities attempting to form, you know, a hivemind…anyway:
Self-appointed mouthpiece ‘Coldblood’, appearing in an interview on the UK’s BBC Radio 4, claimed his own stance was apolitical – and the very emergence of a single personality representing the loose grouping caused a bout of in-fighting, with a number of affiliated users including @Op_Payback, @C0d3Fr0sty, @Anon_Operationn and @AnonOpsNet revealing some in-fighting among the organisation’s ranks.
Coldblood was subsequently outed as a junior and substantially inactive member of the faction. An open video letter posted on YouTube narrated in a robotic, computer-generated voice reiterated the message that the organisation had no head, no spokesperson – and it wanted none.
And “us” “reporters” are also “struggling” to “understand,” by the way.
Luckily, the Thinq.co article “explains,” “Anonymous” “has” “a” “manifesto”:
The ‘gathering’ had explained its loosely-defined nature in an earlier manifesto, released on Thursday [09 December].
Anonymous doesn’t like to be called a ‘group’. And much less do its members like to be called ‘hackers’. They are, to use the manifesto’s excitable, sci-fi-tinged terminology, an “Online Living Consciousness”
“Througout the relatively short history of Anonymous,” says the manifesto, “the atoms it is comprised of have never been the exact same in number, consistency and form.”
That word “manifesto” used to be a link; it links to a redirect that now goes nowhere. Guess what? Googling “Anonymous Manifesto” gets me waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy down deep in a Google Hole.
In any event, the Guardian tech blog does a pretty good job of explaining the non-group’s Low-Orbit Ion Cannon, or LOIC, a piece of software that (supposedly) allows users to take part in DDOS attacks. The software has, reportedly, been downloaded 40,000 times. I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but here’s the Guardian:
Initially, LOIC was a piece of software that had to be used manually: you had to run it on your machine (from which it would attempt to generate a DDOS). But as the week has progressed, other programmers have tweaked it so that it’s simpler to use – you let the server control it. That has seen 33,000 downloads at a rate of more than 1,000 per hour since it was developed.
In fact the reality is that most of those people flooding into those forums are having barely any effect: there are a few thousand of them, which simply doesn’t make a proper DDOS attack.
BTW, for what it’s worth, here are a few early paragraphs of the “press” “release” “dated” “December” “10”; most of the typos belong to whoever typed the press release. That person may or may not be an activist, or a hacker, or associated with the person or persons who launched DDOS attacks on Wikileaks’ enemies or has anything to do with the LOIC or whatever. They could be a well-meaning bystander, for all I know, or an employee of the CIA or the Swedish government. WTF do I know? Here’s some of what it says, though:
In their most recent public statement, WikiLeaks is the only group of people to identify Anonymous correctly. Anonymous is not a group, but rather an Internet gathering.
Both Anonymous and the media that is covering it are aware of the percieved [sic] dissent between individuals in the gathering. This does not, however, mean that the command structure of Anonymous is failing for a simple reason: Anonymous has a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives.
We do not believe that a similar movment exists in the world today and as such we have to learn by trial and error. We are now in the process of better communicating some core values to the individual atoms that comprise Anonymous – we also want to take this opportunity to communicate a message to the media so that the average Internet Citizen can get to know who we are and what we represent.
Anonymous is not a group of hackers. We are average Interent [sic] Citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day.
We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers. We also do not seek to attack critical infrastructure of companies such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal or Amazon. Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair [sic] WikiLeaks’ ability to function.
[Link to the release on dump.no.]
Incidentally, for what it’s worth (not much), the Anon_Operations Twitter account hasn’t thus far, as of this writing, linked to the press release, the manifesto, or anything else. All it’s done since it threatened the EFF is retweet Wikileaks stuff.
Anyway…the fact of Anonymous’s “structure” or lack thereof challenges the very structure not just of journalism but of human thought, apparently. News agencies continue to refer to it as a group as if “Anonymous” was a group of four characters in an early-90s hacksploitation drama in which the smart kid, the fat kid, the girl, and the smelly not-that-smart sidekick “hack the Pentagon mainframe” while learning important lessons about growing up.
So why is it that, ferinstance, Thinq.com can say things like:
“So what are Anonymous’s aims? In short, the group has none, beyond a generic desire to protect free speech on the Internet.”
Wait, I’m confused. Is it a group or isn’t it a group?
I get that it is not a “group” but an “internet gathering,” which…I’m just gonna say it…sounds like a kind of group. But then, it’s not a group, it’s an internet gathering.
Apparently somebody knows what that means; I don’t.
I’ll leave it to all you 133t h4ck3rs out there to sort this out.
‘Cause after having had it pointed out to me that the very idea of “Anonymous” issuing a press release is pretty ludicrous, I plan to start blaming individuals, not groups, for their actions. Proofread your press releases, “individual.”